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Europe drinks in Ryder Cup success as U.S. scratches its head

By Chris Murphy, CNN
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Mon October 1, 2012
Europe's jubilant players lift their victorious Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal in the air after winning in Chicago.
Europe's jubilant players lift their victorious Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal in the air after winning in Chicago.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Europe's players bask in the glow of a monumental comeback Ryder Cup victory
  • Several players involved in the fightback still struggling to take in their epic win
  • United States press have started the inquest over what caused their team's collapse
  • European hero Ian Poulter said on Twitter it feels like "we have just robbed a bank"

(CNN) -- It is the day after the tumultuous one before.

Victorious captain Jose Maria Olazabal has arrived back in Europe with the Ryder Cup trophy as the continent continues to celebrate one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time.

It is a very different story across the pond as the head scratching continues. How did the United States turn what was supposed to be an emphatic victory into the 'Miracle of Medinah'?

Despite an insistence from both sides they would get together over a beer at the end of the competition come what may, no U.S. players dropped into the European party, according to those who celebrated all night long.

Read: How Seve's spirit inspired Europe success

That should come as no surprise, as a party is probably the last thing any of the shell shocked Americans had on their minds as they tried to piece together a startling collapse that ended in a 14 1/2 - 13 1/2 defeat.

Not that they are alone in their disbelief. Even some of the European players are still struggling to come to terms with such a decisive swing during the singles matches on Sunday in Chicago.

Peter Hanson, center, and Francesco Molinari of Europe celebrate their team winning the 39th Ryder Cup on Sunday, September 30, in Medinah, Illinois. Europe produced the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history to defeat the United States and retain the trophy. See more of the best of CNN's photography. Peter Hanson, center, and Francesco Molinari of Europe celebrate their team winning the 39th Ryder Cup on Sunday, September 30, in Medinah, Illinois. Europe produced the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history to defeat the United States and retain the trophy. See more of the best of CNN's photography.
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As they head back home after overturning a 10-6 deficit to claim a fifth Ryder Cup win in the last six years, the magnitude of their achievement is yet to sink in for some of those who made it happen.

Chicago resident Luke Donald, who led the charge by taking down Masters champion Bubba Watson in the opening singles match, is one of them.

"I still can't quite believe that happened yesterday, what an amazing feeling being a part of one of the biggest sporting comebacks ever," he said on his official Twitter site.

Ian Poulter, who won four of his matches and gained a crucial point for Europe with a late victory over U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, echoed Donald's sentiments.

"On the plane on the way back to Orlando, why does it feel like we just robbed a bank? Not sure how long it's going to take to sink in," he said on the micro-blogging site.

The joy the European contingent felt was tinged with relief for world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who nearly forfeited his match with Keegan Bradley by missing his tee-off slot.

The Northern Irishman thought he was teeing off at 11.25am eastern time, but Chicago is in the central time zone and his starting berth was an hour earlier.

Read: U.S. stunned as Europe wins Ryder Cup

After a frantic call from his manager he was hurried to the course in a police car, arriving 11 minutes before his match was due to begin.

Had he missed the start, he'd have handed a crucial point to Bradley on a plate.

"I was just lucky there was a State Trooper downstairs who could take me, get his lights on and pass all the traffic,' he told reporters. "Once we got off the highway it would have taken 10 minutes without him to get through that junction.

"I've never been so worried going to a golf course. I got to the course at 11.14, so I had 11 minutes to get ready and had just enough time to put my shoes on, have a couple of putts and go to the first tee.

"In a way it wasn't a bad thing because I didn't have time to think about it -- and I played probably the best I played all week."

As for captain Olazabal, who channeled the spirit of the his great friend and erstwhile Ryder Cup playing partner, Seve Ballesteros, it was the crowning glory after a tough opening two days.

The U.S. dominated the foursomes and fourball matches, until a late Poulter charge on Saturday evening gave rise to the impossible dream, delivered in style by his charges on Sunday.

I can imagine how quiet it's going to be for the guys playing in tournaments next week. It's just going to be like you're playing in your garden on your own
Nicolas Colsaerts

"It's going to take a little while before it completely sinks in," Olazabal was quoted as saying by the European Tour website. "It's been a very emotional week, especially when things were not going our way, but (Saturday) everything turned round for us.

"We changed a couple of crucial matches around down the stretch and that gave us the chance to have this trophy back. It's completely different from playing, being a Ryder Cup captain. I think in my career it ranks number one."

The mood was very different back in the States, where one sports journalist was vilified for a column on Saturday in which he said the Ryder Cup was done and dusted unless one of five things happened.

One included the abduction of Keegan Bradley, who lost to McIlroy, while another was a way for Olazabal to go back in time like Marty McFly from the Back to the Future movies.

Elsewhere in the press, recriminations started to fly. 'Americans produce a choke for the ages at Ryder Cup,' cried the New York Post.

The Chicago Tribune went with the headline 'Epic Ryder Cup Collapse Inexcusable' and said: "Europeans forever will refer to it as the Miracle at Medinah. For the U.S., Medin-ahhhhhhhhhh!"

Several European players will now head to Scotland, host of the 2014 Ryder Cup, to play in the next European Tour event, including Martin Kaymer, who holed the putt that ensured Europe would retain the trophy.

Ryder Cup rookie Nicolas Colsaerts, who delivered a fourball point on Friday with an inspired performance, said he was so enraptured by the atmosphere it will difficult going back to regular Tour life.

He said: "You don't come across an atmosphere like this anywhere else. It's almost like a fix -- you're going to need to play in an atmosphere like this.

"I can imagine how quiet it's going to be for the guys playing in tournaments next week. It's just going to be like you're playing in your garden on your own."

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